Basic Relaxation Exercise

Audio, Basic Relaxation Exercise

This exercise will take about 20 minutes and will help relax both your body and mind.

To get started, sit up straight in a comfortable chair, with your feet on the floor.  If there is a more comfortable position for you, certainly use it.  Unless you want to fall asleep, do the exercise sitting up.  At bedtime, you can lie in bed and simply fall asleep with this exercise.  If any step in the exercise isn’t comfortable, either physically or emotionally, just focus on your breathing during that step instead.

Slowly close your eyes, or focus on one spot on the floor or wall, if that is more comfortable for you.  Invite your body and mind to begin to relax.  As you focus inwardly, imagine a big blackboard in front of you.  If worries or concerns come to you, now or during this exercise, imagine writing them up on this blackboard in front of you.  Then imagine a big eraser coming along and erasing them.  Slowly your mind will settle down and begin to feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Begin to focus on your breathing, following your breath as it comes into your body and goes out of your body.  Take 2 slow, relaxed deep breaths, watching your breathing come in… and then go out.  Then return your breathing to a normal rate and normal depth, and continue to watch your breath.  Imagine that with each breath in, you’re breathing in comfort and relaxation, and with each breath out, you’re breathing out any discomfort or worry.

Next I’ll have you turn your focus to different areas of your body, first tightening the muscles in that area, and then letting them relax.

To start, I’ll have you focus on your left arm, starting with your left hand.  Tighten those muscles into a tight, tense fist… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let any tension or discomfort flow out through your fingertips.

As you focus on your left arm, imagine a sink filled with water.  And into this sink, imagine placing any discomfort or worries.  Then imagine pulling the plug and watching the water swirl around and around, and out the bottom of the sink, taking with it any discomfort or concerns.

And next focus on your left lower arm.  Tighten those muscles… tight and tense… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let your arm be completely supported by the chair.

And next focus on your left upper arm.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your arm into your side … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Imagine a wave of relaxation, starting at your left shoulder, spreading down to your elbow… to your wrist… to the tips of your fingers.

Now I’ll have you focus on your right arm, starting with your right hand.  Tighten those muscles into a tight, tense fist… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let any tension or discomfort flow out through your fingertips.

As you focus on your right arm, imagine filling up a helium balloon.  Imagine putting any discomfort or worries into this balloon, and then letting the balloon go.  Watch it float up and away, higher and higher, getting smaller and smaller, taking with it any discomfort or concerns.

And next focus on your right lower arm.  Tighten those muscles… tight and tense… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let your arm be completely supported by the chair.
And next focus on your right upper arm.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your arm into your side … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Imagine a wave of relaxation, starting at your right shoulder, spreading down to your elbow… to your wrist… to the tips of your fingers.

Now I’ll have you focus on shoulders, an area where we sometimes hold tension.  Tighten those muscles by bringing your shoulders up to your ears … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let your shoulders fall gently down and back.  And next, focus on the muscles of your face.  Tighten those muscles by tightly shutting your eyes and clenching your jaw … it may feel like a funny face … and on the count of 3, relax 1, 2, 3.  Imagine a wave of relaxation spreading out over your forehead to the top of your head and down the back of your neck.  And imagine another wave of relaxation flowing back over your cheeks to your ears and down the sides and front of your neck.

Now I’ll have you focus on your chest, stomach and back.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your stomach towards your back, tight and tense.  And on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let your torso be completely supported by the chair.

Now I’ll have you focus on your left leg, starting with your left foot.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your foot into the floor … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let any tension or discomfort flow out through the tips of your toes.

As you focus on your left leg, imagine a tall candle in front of you.  Imagine putting any discomfort or worries at the top of this candle, and then lighting it.  As it burns, imagine the candle getting smaller and smaller, burning away any discomfort or concerns.

And next focus on your left lower leg.  Tighten those muscles in your calf … tight and tense… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.

And next focus on your left upper leg.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your leg into the chair … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Imagine a wave of relaxation, starting at the top of your left leg, spreading down to your knee, to your ankle, and out to the tips of your toes.

Now I’ll have you focus on your right leg, starting with your right foot.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your foot into the floor … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Let any tension or discomfort flow out through the tips of your toes.

As you focus on your right leg, imagine standing beside a gentle stream.  Imagine picking up a small twig, and tying any discomfort or worries to this twig.  Then imagine throwing this twig into the stream, and watching it float downstream, getting smaller and smaller, until it disappears around a corner, taking with it any discomfort or concerns.

And next focus on your right lower leg.  Tighten those muscles in your calf … tight and tense… and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.

And next focus on your right upper leg.  Tighten those muscles by pushing your leg into the chair … and on the count of 3, relax, 1, 2, 3.  Imagine a wave of relaxation, starting at the top of your right leg, spreading down to your knee, to your ankle, and out to the tips of your toes.

And now, imagine looking over your whole body and seeing if there’s any area that still has any tension or discomfort.  Focus for a moment again on your breathing, and imagine with each breath, healing oxygen going right to any area.  Imagine that area getting warmer, getting more and more relaxed, more and more comfortable.

Enjoy for a few more moments the comfort and relaxation you feel … knowing that you can return here at any time.  And invite your body and mind to continue to feel comfortable and relaxed, even as your attention turns elsewhere.

Now to bring this exercise to a close, I’ll count down from 10 to 0, and when I reach zero, you can slowly open your eyes.

10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … 6 … 5 …

Continuing to feel comfortable and relaxed, and with energy to resume your day.

4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … 0.

Slowly open your eyes, take a deep breath in and out, and gently wiggle your fingers and toes.  You are ready to continue your day.

Alternatives:
Use any imagery you’d like to imagine your discomfort or worries decreasing, e.g. a grassy field in the morning, as the sun slowly evaporates the mist, or a sandcastle being slowly washed away by gentle waves.

At bedtime, omit the ending countdown and the phrase “with energy to resume your day,” and instead simply continue to focus on your breathing.

Pointers:
Hold the muscles tense at least 7 seconds, for a better contrast between tension and relaxation.  (If you are prone to muscle spasms, or feel a spasm coming on, you can shorten this time.)

If you practice the exercise often, your body will learn to relax more quickly when you use the exercise.  Soon you may find that you become very relaxed by just starting the exercise.  After you learn the exercise, you may also find that just doing parts of the exercise relaxes you.  For example, during a meeting where you can’t close your eyes, just focusing on your breathing for a few moments brings calm and relaxation.